When Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra selected Japtej Singh to play the role of young Milkha for his biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, based on the life of athlete Milkha Singh, it was for the first time that the twelve-year-old had heard Singh’s name. “Only after Rakeysh uncle selected me for the role during the Chandigarh auditions, I looked up on the internet to see who Milkha Singh was,” says a shy Japtej, who was selected from more than 6,500 candidates, who had audfitioned for the role.
So, what was the reaction of his friends, when he bagged the role? “I did not tell them initially. Just one-month before the release I told them, and they were very excited. My teachers praised me a lot when they saw me in the film... I felt very nice,” says the student of Yadavindra Public School, Chandigarh, who shot his part for the film during his 40-day summer vacation, last year.
Needless to say, this youngest member of the crew was the most pampered on the sets too. “Rakeysh uncle pampered me a lot, and Divya aunty (Divya Dutta played Milkha Singh’s elder sister in the film) and Farhan uncle were very loving too. Farhan uncle would chat with me a lot, asking me GK questions,” said Singh, who’s debut into the film industry was however with another Punjabi flick, Lucky Di Unlucky Story, earlier this year.
So how has life changed? “People instantly recognise me on the streets. I’ve got a few other film offers and even ad film offers too but dad says that I must finish my studies first,” says the li’l sardar, who was there to inaugurate Cleopatra salon, Chandigarh’s month-long Carnival, O Organic, recently.